Back in 2011, the Brooklyn art world and incredulous citizens at large were first introduced to Marni Kotak, the performance artist who infamously gave birth in a gallery.
Her piece, entitled "The Birth of Baby X," meant to reveal, in the artist's words, "this amazing life performance that ... is essentially hidden from public view." The endeavor was called, among other things, "bad art."
Now Kotak is back, with another equally taboo and potentially aggravating endeavor. Now, the artist is going off her medication -- wait for it... wait for it -- for the sake of art!
In 2012, Kotak began taking a "cocktail of anti-psychotic, anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety medication" as treatment for postpartum depression, she explained to The Daily Beast. For a six week performance, Kotak will withdraw from all pills, potentially mentally unraveling before an audience. The project aims to address issues of the pharmaceutical industry and US medical system.
Microscope Gallery explains more thoroughly in their press release:
Mad Meds incorporates new works in photography, video, and sculpture situated within an ideal environment – such as a gold-leafed bed, fluffy photo pillows, blankets and rugs, exercise and meditation equipment – created by Kotak to facilitate her attempt to gradually reduce her medical dosage to zero. With Mad Meds Kotak suggests an alternative approach to dealing with “madness”, one in contrast to her own traumatic experience as a inpatient of a hospital psych ward, and reflects on the possibility of a med-free existence.
Kotak has always used her life experiences as the stuff of artistic material. "With my performances I think of myself as a vessel for other people to imagine themselves doing something like this," she explained to the Daily Beast. "I don’t think our society has offered people many models of how to safely get off medication."
The 39-year-old artist also hopes to illuminate the often restricted topic of mental health, particularly for women, through her work. As she explained to Hyperallergic: "Part of this project is that I want to get other women who have had other experiences with mental health issues to share their stories... Because I just feel like the world needs to hear these stories. And people need to be able to tell them and it needs to be safe."
While we're all in favor of open conversations regarding women's mental health, there are many potential problems with this piece. As Sophie Weiner explained in AnimalNY: "Projects like this one which seem to imply that mental illness is a scam made up by doctors — and shame those who need medicine to function — perpetuate the stigmatization of these illnesses that so many suffer from." At the very least, Kotak is doing little to help the masses comprehend the legitimacy of performance art.
Do you see Kotak's project as inspirational or infuriating? Let it all out in the comments.
MAD MEDS runs until August 25 at Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn.